Mixed Heritage in Young Adult Literature

Mixed Heritage in Young Adult Literature

by Nancy Thalia Reynolds
     
 

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Mixed-heritage people are one of the fastest-growing groups in the United States, yet culturally they have been largely invisible, especially in young adult literature. Mixed Heritage in Young Adult Literature is a critical exploration of how mixed-heritage characters (those of mixed race, ethnicity, religion, and/or adoption) and real-life people have been

Overview

Mixed-heritage people are one of the fastest-growing groups in the United States, yet culturally they have been largely invisible, especially in young adult literature. Mixed Heritage in Young Adult Literature is a critical exploration of how mixed-heritage characters (those of mixed race, ethnicity, religion, and/or adoption) and real-life people have been portrayed in young adult fiction and nonfiction.

This is the first in-depth, broad-scope critical exploration of this subgenre of multicultural literature. Following an introduction to the topic, author Nancy Thalia Reynolds examines the portrayal of mixed-heritage characters in literary classics by James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain, and Zora Neale Hurston—staples of today's high school English curriculum—along with other important authors. It opens up the discussion of young-adult racial and ethnic identity in literature to recognize—and focus on—those whose heritage straddles boundaries. In this book teachers will find new tools to approach race, ethnicity, and family heritage in literature and in the classroom. This book also helps librarians find new criteria with which to evaluate young adult fiction and nonfiction with mixed-heritage characters.

Editorial Reviews

May 2009 American Reference Books Annual
Superb....This work is highly recommended for curriculum labs and public and college and university libraries.
VOYA - Jennifer Miskec
A part of the Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature series, Reynolds's work is a critical investigation of the often-unexamined topic of mixed heritage characters in adolescent literature. Reynolds traces the most prevalent patterns and speaks to the politics and ideologies underpinning the representation of a variety of multiracial, multiethnic, and interfaith characters. Reynolds begins by exploring the evolution of the archetypical mixed race character as seen in classic texts (i.e. Jane Eyre), and moves on to the more contemporary "In Search of My Missing Half" paradigm, as well as emerging trends she sees developing in both young adult fiction and nonfiction. Broad in scope, Reynolds's analysis covers a variety of "multiculti" categories and offers an array of texts to support her claims. She clearly takes young adult literature seriously and seems personally invested in the serious study of the multivariate topics and texts included here. Readers will appreciate Reynolds' careful consideration of race as a context for the literary conversations at the heart of her text; the promise to offer a "criteria with which to evaluate young adult fiction and non-fiction [sic] containing individuals of mixed heritage" is delivered with ease and sophistication. This reviewer was looking forward to a bit of a conclusion, synthesizing, problematizing, or speculating. Nonetheless Reynolds's work is thorough, important, and highly usable. Reviewer: Jennifer Miskec
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Contributing an interesting and often overlooked perspective to the critical conversation about multicultural books, this thoughtful title is part of the publisher's "Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature." Nancy Thalia Reynolds begins by exploring the nature of multiracial America: its current spaces of identity and culture, implications for adolescence, and emerging trends in young adult literature. She pulls no punches in her examination of historical antecedents, from Thackeray's mulatto heiress and Charlotte Bronte's Bertha, to Zora Neale Hurston and the mixed race character's emergence from victimhood. "Race is literary kryptonite," Reynolds argues. She urges writers to be courageous enough not only to take on mixed heritage characters in young adult fiction but to resist the easy route of trivializing race in the process. She does not flinch from discussing new stereotypes in contemporary books, along with those that tackle questions of mixed heritage in nuanced, complex ways. Mixed race as metaphor is discussed in the work of Jacqueline Woodson. The omnipresence of race is explored in Marjorie Blackmans' "Naughts and Crosses" trilogy. Unexplored boundaries are examined as well, citing the only YA novel to date that focuses on black and American Indian heritage, Virginia Hamilton's brilliant Arilla Sun Down. Other themes addressed include loyalties, journeys, and concepts of home. Reynolds takes definite positions and argues them with passion and conviction, supporting her points liberally with examples from the texts she is considering. A final chapter examines the reflection (or lack thereof) of this subject in nonfiction for young adults. Back matter includes abibliography of print and online sources, lists of related websites, and an index. (The "Scarecrow Studies" include other titles such as The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content by Michael Cart and Christine A. Jenkins, and Humor in Young Adult Literature: A Time to Laugh by Walter Hogan.) Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810859692
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
03/19/2009
Series:
Studies in Young Adult Literature Series, #32
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Thalia Reynolds is the author of numerous articles and books on parenting, education, culture, and travel, including Adopting Your Child (1993).

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